Charlotte Cardin wants to be set free. On the titular, opening track to the Montreal singer-songwriter’s debut album, Phoenix, you can practically feel her desire to be liberated, grappling with two versions of herself, which are physically present on the album’s cover. Cardin sings about the hell she’s been through and wanting to be reborn, like the mythological bird the album is named after: “I had to burn everything that I want just to come back like a phoenix.”
Phoenix feels like an album for the modern young woman. At 26, Cardin effortlessly captures the complicated nature of trying to understand who she is and what she wants. She finds herself in a vulnerable state, but lyrically, her feelings are twisted into empowering vignettes. Tracks like “Meaningless,” about the fear of wasting time in your twenties, sounds like a cry for help, and “Sex to Me,” a track about a friend-with-benefits relationship gone stale is sung with a pinch of cheekiness. She’s confidently able to confront her emotions with no remorse.
Cardin is good at the buildup, quietly singing about her insecurities and how past lovers have done her wrong, as the instrumentals slowly simmer. But when the beat drops, you can’t help but nod your head and dance to oscillating synth beats as the passion in Cardin’s voice intensifies, like on “Passive Aggressive.” With thoughtfully constructed instrumentals, her voice is powerful.
The album features soulful ballads and dizzy pop-soul tracks that capture the range of Cardin’s feelings during the conception of the album. Sonically, it works, and the versatility in emotion is refreshing as Phoenix progresses. The duality is furthered on the intensely exposing “Good Girl” and the sultry yet moody “Sad Girl” — a one-two punch of standouts. On the former, Cardin sings about begging a lover not to leave even though they’re not necessarily right for her, while the latter is the aftermath. Cardin is unsure how to move on, deciding to channel her energy into songwriting, as she shares her inspiration when making the record, singing, “I got an album from this fucking mess.”
While Cardin’s vulnerability is heavily present throughout Phoenix, she saves some of the most tender tracks for the second half of the album. “Sun Goes Down (Buddy)” is a hidden gem and feels like a hug in the midst of the bitterness and brooding angst surrounding it. Against a plucked acoustic guitar, Cardin’s vocals are incredibly raw, and it’s one of the album’s more earnest moments. In a similar tone, the closing track, French-language ballad “Je Quitte,” is quite sombre, but it’s clear Cardin is far from giving up — she’s just getting started.
On Phoenix, Cardin finds her truth and is finally able to break out of her shell. The album is filled with love and heartbreak, but it’s also infused with freedom and growth. Cardin sheds the skin of her past self and resiliently moves forward into the unknown to find herself. (Cult Nation)
03.Anyone Who Loves Me
06.Sex To Me
11.Sun Goes Down (Buddy)
OVERALL RATING: 4 stars